Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell discussed a number of issues, including bilateral cooperation and regional topics, at a meeting in Cairo on Thursday, the president’s spokesman said.
Also present for the meeting were Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and EU Ambassador to Egypt Christian Berger, Bassam Rady said.
Rady said that El-Sisi welcomed Borrell’s visit in the context of the depth and durability of the complex relations between Egypt and the EU and the strong ties that unite the two sides in light of the common challenges they face on the two shores of the Mediterranean, in addition to the fact that the EU is Egypt’s largest commercial and investment partner.
According to Rady, Borrell praised the historic relations between the EU and Egypt, especially in light of the political weight that Egypt enjoys internationally and regionally.
In addition, Egypt’s role as a pivot for security and stability in the region, which is currently in a critical phase of severe turmoil, makes it an important strategic partner for the EU, he said.
Rady said that the meeting tackled aspects of cooperation and dialogue between Egypt and the EU in the political, economic and security fields. The meeting also covered coordination efforts between Egypt and the EU on various important regional and international issues, especially developments in Libya.
El-Sisi reaffirmed Egypt's steadfast stance in supporting a political solution to the Libyan crisis that avoids foreign interference and armed militias, and said that Cairo welcomes any positive and constructive steps that lead to peaceful settlement, construction and development.
The president moreover confirmed Egypt's support for the relevant international efforts on the crisis, including the Berlin conference and the Cairo Declaration, the statement read.
The Cairo Declaration is a Libyan-Libyan political initiative jointly announced by El-Sisi, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar, and Libya's parliament speaker Aguila Saleh, in Cairo in June, which aims to resolve the crisis and end the armed conflict in the country.
Borrell, who is the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and the vice president of the European Commission, emphasised the importance that the EU attaches to Egypt's pivotal role, which achieves balance in the Libyan issue.
He said he appreciated the Egyptian efforts on various challenges in the region which affect security and stability in Mediterranean countries, especially hosting millions of refugees in Egypt and preventing illegal immigration, combating terrorism and extremist ideology, and also working towards establishing peace in the Middle East.
The statement added that it was agreed during the meeting on the need to push collective international action towards the resumption of negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides with the aim of “a just and comprehensive settlement” of the Palestinian issue in accordance with international references.
El-Sisi and Borrell also exchanged views on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis. The president affirmed Egypt's adherence to its water rights by reaching a balanced and legally binding agreement on the mega-dam that guarantees clear rules on its filling and operation and achieves the common interests of all parties.
Egypt and Sudan are in talks with Ethiopia to reach an agreement on the issue.
At the last round of the African Union-sponsored negotiations on Friday, the three countries' technical and legal committees were scheduled to come up with a unified draft of their three proposals for an agreement to be submitted to current AU head, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
They failed to reach a consensus, however, and agreed instead to send individual letters to Ramaphosa expressing their visions for the next stage of talks.
Shoukry and Borrell’s press conference
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry during a press conference with European Union's Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell in Cairo on Thursday (Photo courtesy of Foreign Ministry Spokesperson)
Borrell said during a press conference with Shoukry after the meeting on Thursday that the EU fully backs Egypt’s stance and shares its worries over the GERD problem, according to Egypt’s MENA news agency.
Shoukry said during the press conference that his talks with Borrell also covered the Palestinian cause, the situation in Libya and Syria, and means to restore regional stability. Talks also touched upon the situation in some countries in the Sahara and the Sahel, the minister added.
He also asserted the depth of the ties binding Egypt and the EU in various domains.
Borrell said the EU and Egypt are working together on enhancing cooperation in various spheres, including the environment, energy, migration, water and health, and economic fields.
Meeting with defence minister
Borrell also met on Thursday with Defence and Military Production Minister Mohamed Zaki for a discussion about joint cooperation in the defence field, the Egyptian armed forces said.
According to the military’s statement on the meeting, Zaki expressed his appreciation of the relations between Egypt and the EU, describing the link as a strategic relationship based on cooperation between partners to achieve stability and security for the region.
He also stated his appreciation of the political, military and economic importance of the relationship between Egypt and the EU’s member countries.
According to the statement, Borrell asserted the importance of continuing the EU’s joint coordination and cooperation with Egypt in order to achieve stability and security for all people living in the Mediterranean region.